Jacksonville Mayor Trying To Keep Florida-Georgia Beyond '21
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said that the city is in talks with the Univ. of Georgia and the Univ. of Florida to keep their annual football game at TIAA Bank Field "beyond the current deal" that expires after '21, according to Garry Smits of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. UGA coach Kirby Smart yesterday during the SEC's spring meeting said that "'nothing is off the table' in regards to keeping the game at TIAA Bank Field or moving it to another neutral site or rotating it as a home-and-home series." Smart has pointed out in the past that a neutral-site game "takes away one recruiting weekend." Smart: "Our version of the LSU-Alabama game is held in Jacksonville and we don’t have prospects. So it’s not conducive to recruiting, absolutely it’s not. It’s just the way it’s been done here before." Smits notes Jacksonville has hosted the annual game the last 86 years outside of '94-95, when it moved to campus while TIAA Bank Stadium was being renovated. Both UGA and UF are paid $250,000 per year, and they "split the gate" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 5/29). In Orlando, Edgar Thompson notes UF coach Dan Mullen understands Smart's "point of view from a recruiting standpoint." However, Mullen said that the tradition of the Florida-Georgia game is "so unique and so ingrained" in both the history of each program and the city of Jacksonville. Mullen: "It makes it a lot of fun to play in Jacksonville. You do lose an opportunity, you have one less home game every other year. But it is such a great event to have a game and it is such a unique game in all of college football" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/29).
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO: In Tampa, Matt Baker writes questions around the location of the game "usually finds itself up for discussion around the time officials begin discussing a new contract." However, the circumstances "surrounding scheduling and the sport are different this time." It may not be "different enough to move the series away from Jacksonville," but different enough to "warrant serious conversations in Gainesville and Athens." Attendance is down across college football, and UF's average home crowd last year of 82,328 was its smallest since '90. Holding the game in Jacksonville "deprives the Gators of a marquee home contest this season" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 5/29). THE ATHLETIC's Seth Emerson writes Florida-Georgia has been "held in Jacksonville for so long because both schools have wanted it that way, from presidents to athletic directors to fans and, sometimes, to coaches." Even if Smart "wants to explore moving the game -- and it’s not clear he does -- then his bosses will need to be convinced" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/28).